Because Dear Leader Is Without Flaw

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Trump Maladministration

Josh Marshall noticed something peculiar in Sean Spicer’s presser today.

Note that in Sean Spicer’s initial discussion of the Flynn matter, he clearly did not say that Flynn had misled the President. The consistent refrain is that he misled Vice President Pence “and others.” He also went to great lengths to say there was nothing substantively or legally wrong with what Flynn what Flynn did. The issue is entirely one of communication between Michael Flynn and the Vice President “and others.” Spicer said the President lost confidence because of Flynn’s lack of truthfulness with Pence. It is no accident that there is no mention of Flynn misleading the President.

This is the way people talk when they know they’re going to be screamed at if they say otherwise. See also “The White House’s Rapidly Shifting Story on Firing Flynn.” The White House is trying to say that the so-called president both knew and didn’t know what was going on with Flynn.

Spicer says the so-called president was informed of the issue some time back — January 26 or thereabouts — and knew “instinctively” that Flynn hadn’t broken any laws. But this Friday the SCROTUS denied knowing anything at all about the Flynn situation. Now we learn that he knew about it and was not deceived, although other people were deceived. Too bad about them, I guess.

But if D.T. were not deceived, and Flynn goes down for violation of the Logan Act, or worse, wouldn’t that make anyone not-deceived but who kept him around and covered it up several more days also culpable?

I have a headache.

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The United States Is Being Governed by Spoiled, Idiot Children

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Trump Maladministration

Paul Waldman wrote this before the Flynn resignation. It’s titled “This Is What Incompetence Looks Like.”

But in the latest round of stories about Flynn, what is perhaps most striking is what a chaotic mess the White House’s national security operation — which Flynn is supposed to manage — has become. As the New York Times reports Monday, National Security Council staff “get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.” Then there’s this:

Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.

Several staff members said that Mr. Flynn, who was a career Army officer, was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency — for, say, a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the detonation of a dirty bomb in an American city.

This story — of key White House staff surprised to learn how some particularly important process actually works — is something we’ve seen again and again. For instance, the process leading to the executive order on travel restrictions was apparently overseen by Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller without the input of the relevant agencies or legal counsel, and it ultimately was put on hold by the courts — which was of course precisely what happened, to the president’s shock and anger.

Flynn was asked to resign, a White House official told Talking Points Memo. There were reports last week Flynn was being thrown under the bus. Apparently he gets on peoples’ nerves. TPM also points out that “Flynn is the third member of the Trump campaign/administration to resign over issues related to Russia: Manafort and Page.”

Naturally, the utterly partisan toady Rep.  Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, says his committee won’t bother to investigate in spite of the big, honking, neon-lit appearance of illegal activity in the Trump maladministration. Chaffetz is too busy looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails, it seems.

The House Intelligence Committee will be no help, either.

An important point to note. Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn just resigned amidst a counter-intelligence investigation into, among other things, his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. But only three or four hours before Flynn resigned, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence), Devin Nunes, said there was no problem and it was just the President’s enemies (“the swamp” in his words) making trouble. “It just seems like there’s a lot of nothing here,” Nunes told Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis.

This is only a particularly embarrassing illustration of a larger problem. The Republican Congress has no interest in any oversight of the Trump administration. None. Sure, opposing parties usually scrutinize administrations more aggressively. But it’s rare to have this level of complete refusal. Again, only three or four hours before Flynn resigned in disgrace, Nunes put forward an aggressive defense of Flynn and said nothing was wrong at all.

And this just in — Russia has deployed a missile that violates our arms control treaty. What will the so-called president do? If anything? Give Putin a pass?

Meanwhile, Kennyanne “Mouth of Sauron” Conway is spinning so many clashing talking points even Matt Lauer told her she wasn’t making sense.

Note also:

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.

The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the ­Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the ­information.

Sally Yates is, of course, the acting Attorney General fired by Trump for standing in the way of his unconstitutional travel ban. Perhaps that firing needs to be revisited.

Finally, see  10 unanswered questions after Michael Flynn’s resignation.  Here are the ten questions (read the article for commentary):

1. What, if anything, did Trump authorize Flynn to tell the Russians before his inauguration?

2. Why was Trump planning to stand by Flynn?

3. What did White House counsel Donald McGahn do after the then-acting attorney general notified him last month that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail?

4. What is the status of the FBI investigation into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia?

5. Will Spicer and Pence apologize for making false statements to the American people?

6. Will Flynn face prosecution under the Logan Act?

7. What will the Senate Intelligence Committee uncover about contacts Flynn and others affiliated with Trump had with Russia before the election?

8. Who replaces Flynn?

9. Who else leaves the White House because Flynn is gone?

And, finally,

10. Who exactly is in charge at the White House?

No grown-ups; that’s for sure.

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The So-Called President Is a Boor and a Slob

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Trump Maladministration

Some of the general weirdness surrounding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend is just now coming out. And I’m not talking about the handshake. Which was bad enough.

For starters, on Saturday one of the guests took photos of the aide who carries the nuclear codes and posted them on Facebook. I assume those aides have been photographed before. But we also learned his name is “Rick.”

But then, as the SCROTUS (So-called Ruler of the United States; I can’t take credit for that, alas) and the Prime Minister were dining on the terrace among the paying guests, word got to them that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile. So the very not-secure table on the terrace turned into a situation room, with aides using cell phone “flashlight” functions to light papers on the table.

And were those secure cell phones? A good hacker could have been filming the whole conference.

And the same fellow who had photographed the aide then took photos of the conference, some just a few feet away, and posted those on Facebook, and it appears Instagram as well.

Also, many people reported that while this conference was going on, they were eating iceberg wedge salads, probably with blue cheese dressing. How déclassée.

Then, after a hastily assembled press conference about North Korea, the SCROTUS crashed a wedding reception, with the Prime Minister of Japan in tow. Trump then turned his back on the PM (while calling him “Shinzo) to schmooze with the wedded couple and their families, who turned out to be big-time Trump donors. This would be boorish behavior if the “Shinzo” were his cousin visiting from Chicago, never mind a visiting head of state.

I hope Shinzo has a sense of humor.

This seems to be part of a pattern, though. The SCOTUS has no interest in security protocols, apparently. Never mind manners.

Earlier in the week, Trump had been criticized for leaving intelligence documents vulnerable to people without security clearance. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) noticed that the president kept the key in a secured bag while hosting people in the Oval Office, which is a bit like leaving your house keys in your front door while you’re having a party in your backyard. There’s no indication that anyone saw anything confidential in this incident, but this, Heinrich suggested, was “Classified 101.”

Compared to holding a national security conversation over dinner in the public dining room at his private club, though, the lockbag incident pales.

This article goes on to explain how risky the conference on the terrace was, especially with all those cell phones providing reading light, and people with no security clearance whatsoever a few feet away. And it also mentions this:

Close observers of the 2016 election will remember that, on occasion, President Trump liked to draw attention to his opponent’s security practices as a way of criticism. There was, you may recall, something about an email server.

“Hillary Clinton … sent classified information, even during her travels overseas, jeopardizing the national security of the American people by allowing her emails to be hacked by foreign intelligence services,” Trump’s campaign website declared. But it wasn’t just Clinton who was the target of his criticism: The Democratic National Committee got hacked because it didn’t have a “very strong defense system against hacking” the way the Republicans did (as he said during a cybersecurity session on Jan. 31). The government was hacked by China because “we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing” (as said in his Jan. 11 news conference). Trump, the idea went, would not be so naive on the critical subject of national security.

Perhaps it’s harder than it looks.

People who can’t be bothered to take care of details, like picking up your own socks, or taking care that you don’t leave sensitive documents in an unlocked briefcase, are what we call slobs.

Update: Charles Pierce writes of the social media photograph”

This is just the most amazing picture ever. The classified information on the screen of an open cellphone. The aides using the flashlights of their own phones to help the president*—and the waitstaff—read the classified material. Shinzo Abe sitting there and wondering what he’s gotten himself into.

Every editor who assigned a story about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secret server and the e-mails should immediately consider moving to a monastery on a mountainside in Albania and engage in ritual purification of the body until they get further instructions.

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Recognizing Bull****

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Trump Maladministration

So I take a peak at the Web this morning and learn, from a bunch of right-wing sites, that 72 refugees from the seven “banned” countries have been convicted of terrorism. Like it says here.

How do we recognize this headline as bullshit? Let me count the ways.

First, you might be experiencing cognitive dissonance. If there were acts of terrorism on U.S. soil by Muslim refugees from the seven banned countries, how come we haven’t heard about it? So far, the so-called president and his aides have been unable to identify a single terrorist attack that news media haven’t covered. And lots of people across the political spectrum have been saying there have been no such attacks on U.S. soil.

The best I can come up with is this, from Politifact:

Experts on terrorism tell us that since 9/11 no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack by someone from the seven countries for which Trump’s executive order temporarily suspends admission. Those countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But there have been at least three non-deadly cases in which the perpetrator was connected to Iran or Somalia.

And these are?

One of those examples includes the November 2016 attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who had lived in Pakistan before coming to the United States. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, was shot dead by a police officer after he slammed his car into pedestrians and injured others with a butcher knife. The FBI said it would investigate the attack as a “potential act of terrorism.”

In September 2016, Dahir Adan was shot dead after stabbing nine people in a Minnesota shopping mall. Adan was identified by his father as Somali but born in Kenyamoving to the United States when he was a child.

Another incident was in 2006, when Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar ran a Jeep Cherokee into a crowd of people at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Thinking he would be killed during the attack, Taheri-Azar left a letter in his apartment saying he wanted revenge for the deaths of Muslims across the world caused by the United States, the AP reported. A naturalized citizen born in Iran, Taheri-Azar in 2008 plead guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced for up to 33 years in prison.

I don’t think Dahir Adan should count; it appears he wasn’t really from Somalia. But we’ll give the wingnuts two would-be terrorists from the seven banned countries, although I don’t believe either was convicted of terrorism. Which means the Washington Examiner may have been confused when it published this:

Since 9/11, 72 individuals from the seven mostly Muslim countries covered by President Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order have been convicted of terrorism, bolstering the administration’s immigration ban.

We get another clue from reading the article, which breaks down the “convicted” by country — 20 from Somalia, 19 from Yemen, etc. — but gives us no clue whatsoever what any of them actually did.

We get an even bigger clue when we read that the source of this information is something called the Center for Immigration Studies, which even the Daily Beast calls a “false fact think tank.” Right Wing Watch says that CIS was founded by a white nationalist named John Tanton, and you can read RWW’s archive of John Tanton articles here.

The CIS itself says that it got its list of 72 convicted terrorists from a Senate subcommittee:

In June 2016 the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, then chaired by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, released a report on individuals convicted in terror cases since 9/11. Using open sources (because the Obama administration refused to provide government records), the report found that 380 out of 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11 were foreign-born. The report is no longer available on the Senate website, but a summary published by Fox News is available here.

Jeff Sessions = big, red bullshit flag. But let’s continue.

From the CIS site one can indeed download an Excel file listing the 72 convicted persons and what they were convicted of.  Let us assume this is a real list of actual convicted people and not something made up out of thin air.

There are actually 74 people on the list. Several of them were charged in October 2001 or shortly thereafter and convicted of things like passport forgery and unlicensed financial transactions. Whether the poor buggers were really guilty of anything or just got caught up in the hysteria of the times, we’ll probably never know.

Going up the list, but still in the Bush II years, we find a lot of people convicted of “conspiracy” (of what?) and things like procurement of naturalization by fraud, false statements, violation of export license laws, and “neutrality violation.” A few were convicted of unlawful firearm or explosive device possession. So it may be that some of these people had violent intentions but were caught before the intentions were carried out. I notice one guy convicted of using a firearm in a crime; maybe he held up a liquor store. The convicted persons are all listed as affiliated with various terrorist organizations, but whether that’s true or something added by a Senate staffer with a vivid imagination, we have no way to know.

More recently, 19 of the 74 people were charged and convicted during the Obama Administration, but none after 2011. Even though this list was compiled in 2016, it says, we see nothing on this list that happen more recently than six years ago. (In fact, we don’t know when this stuff happened; the dates tell us when the convicted persons were first charged.) Which suggests that the threat from the seven banned countries isn’t such a clear and present danger that we have to tear up the Constitution to deal with it.

Perhaps the travel restrictions and vetting requirements that the Obama Administration already had in place were doing the job of keeping us safe just fine. Imagine that.

The hysteria currently circulating on right-wing websites is that the 9th circuit court hid this information, somehow, and they are playing with our lives. Although one wonders why the Justice Department didn’t submit it into evidence, if it was so compelling.

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Is Anyone in Charge?

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Trump Maladministration

Josh Marshall points out that Trump has, apparently, rolled on some issues.

Just in the last 24 hours he appears to have been rolled so many times that one imagines his rough edges might start to be worn down until he becomes something more like a clumpy and perhaps oblong ball.

Examples? One, he meekly agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States would maintain the One China policy. The White House press release on this matter actually said, “The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy.” Whether the SPOTUS understood what he agreed to, we can only guess.

Then this happened yesterday:

Then this afternoon EU foreign policy chief (in effect, the EU foreign minister) Federica Mogherini said that she had been assured in her meetings with top administration officials that the Trump administration intended to “stick to the full implementation of the [Iran nuclear] agreement.”

Of course, in this administration “top administration officials” are the equivalent of little boys who get sucked into grown-up meetings when they aren’t squirting glue into the White House light sockets or short sheeting the bed in the Lincoln bedroom.

But Trump on the campaign trail had promised over and over to undo the deal. It was the worst deal he ever saw. And if history is our guide, he may change his mind again. And a few more times.

In the past 24 hours or so, the White House has changed direction several times on the travel ban. Yesterday the Washington Post issued news alerts 30 minutes apart, one saying that Trump would not further appeal the restraining order, and the other saying he would. Both alerts were based on White House statements. A wag on twitter referred to “Schrodinger’s Executive Order: both being appealed and not being appealed.”

More recently, Trump himself announced he would issue a new, revised travel ban next week. Probably. But all options are still on the table. And, of course, this morning he tweeted that “Our legal system is broken!”

Can we say Trump is flailing? I think so.

Trump also is still obsessing over losing the popular vote. Just two days ago he started ranting about it again in a closed door lunch with ten senators, Politico reports.

On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.

As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or “Sherpa,” on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.

According to one participant who described the meeting, “an uncomfortable silence” momentarily overtook the room.

Friday, FEC Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub asked Trump to cough up his evidence.

“The scheme the President of the United States alleges would constitute thousands of felony criminal offences under New Hampshire law,” FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a statement. (http://bit.ly/2lAnk7t)

And so on.

As we say in the Ozarks, the boy ain’t right. So the question is, how long before he completely melts down?

The capitulations on China and Iran — which I hope stand — suggest to me that Trump is becoming increasingly mentally confused, or else he’s just exhausted. Becoming POTUS must be like walking into a buzzsaw, and if one is mentally and emotionally wobbly to begin with, one is likely to fly to pieces.

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Stuff to Read

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Trump Maladministration

Busy day today, but here’s some stuff to read to keep you busy.

Trump vexed by challenges, scale of government

“Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy.”

A Welcome Setback for Donald Trump

“Americans severely misjudged the authoritarians,” Umair Haque, a consultant and social-media maven, commented on Twitter on Saturday night. “But the authoritarians, it seems, also severely misjudged Americans.” Yes, they did, and this weekend’s events offered a bit of hope to everybody alarmed by Donald Trump. Saving America from the most unhinged and least qualified figure ever to occupy the Oval Office may well require a long and bitter fight. But a couple of early markers have been put down. The new President is not beyond the law. And many Americans will not stand by quietly as he traduces their country’s values, threatens its democracy, and destroys its reputation around the world.”

Paul Krugman: When the Fire Comes

Krugman is anticipating the apocalypse.

Roger Cohen: Am I Imagining This?

I want to respond to this one eventually, but he’s saying that journalists are actually being rattled by Trump’s “fake news” charges.

Well, that should keep you busy ….

Here’s another one:

Trump Tried to Intimidate Judges Over His Ban, and He Failed

“I don’t know about the Ninth Circuit, but I don’t see five Justices on the current Supreme Court who’d want to save Trump’s bacon after he has explicitly threatened the entire judicial branch.”

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Show Us What Kind of Man You Are, Judge Gorsuch

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Trump Maladministration

Yesterday this happened

President Trump’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary drew denunciation Wednesday from his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who told a senator that the criticism was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to independent federal courts.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Gorsuch made the comments during their private meeting Wednesday, and the account was confirmed by Ron Bonjean, a member of the group guiding the judge through his confirmation process.

Gorsuch had declined to make the comment public, so Blumenthal made it public, and the so-called president went on the attack.

This morning, our president woke up and decided to trash Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut because Blumenthal revealed that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee told him privately that he found the president’s attacks on the judiciary “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”

Blumenthal in 2010 got caught saying he was in military service in Vietnam when in fact he was in military service — a nice, safe reserve post — during Vietnam but didn’t go to ‘Nam. Blumenthal has apologized for this. It’s not so much fake news as old news. And Mr. Five Deferments is a hypocrite for commenting on anyone else’s service. But let’s go on.

Keep in mind that the so-called president didn’t just slam Judge James Robart for his restraining order but also insulted the judges on the 9th Circuit Court who are currently reviewing that restraining order, which of course is a great way to win the court over to one’s side.

If the 9th Circuit Court upholds the restraining order, as most people expect it will, the so-called president is likely to become even more unhinged. On cameras, please, oh, please ….

This morning Senator Blumenthal said the nation was in danger of a constitutional crisis:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Thursday warned that the country is heading toward a “constitutional crisis,” moments after President Trump attacked him for sharing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s concerns with the president’s attacks on judges.

“I said to Judge Gorsuch and I believe that ordinarily a Supreme Court nominee would not be expected to comment on issues or political matters or cases that come before court, but we’re in a very unusual situation,” Blumenthal said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“We’re careening, literally, toward a constitutional crisis. And he’s been nominated by a president who has repeatedly and relentlessly attacked the American judiciary on three separate occasions, their credibility and trust is in question.”

There is an internet rumor that the so-called president un-nominated Gorsuch for the Supreme Court in light of Gorsuch’s comments. That turned out to not be true; the SPOTUS appears to be in denial that Gorsuch said what he said. In fact, he has widened his attacks to include Ron Bonjean and Kelly Ayotte, who both confirmed that Gorsuch indeed said what he said.

But I sincerely hope that this episode comes up in Gorsuch’s hearings, and that Gorsuch has the integrity to make clear that Trump’s comments, and attempts to intimidate the judiciary, are outrageously out of line. Or, even better, that he withdraws his name from nomination in order not to bear the shame of being a Trump nominee.

So let’s see what kind of man you are, Judge Gorsuch.

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What We’re Not Supposed to Talk About

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Trump Maladministration

I need to be about five people to keep up with all the craziness these days. Note that Jeff Sessions just got confirmed, with one Democratic vote — Sen. Joe Manchin III (Turncoat-W.Va.). Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 and had damn well better be primaried.

But I want to focus on the most chilling things I read today. Let’s start with Paul Waldman’s post on last month’s special forces raid in Yemen.

It’s safe to say that if Hillary Clinton had ordered the special forces raid in Yemen on January 29th that went so terribly wrong, by now there would be five simultaneous congressional investigations underway, not to mention blanket coverage in the news media. But despite multiple deaths including one American servicemember, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer has insisted that the mission was a smashing success. “The goal of the raid was intelligence gathering,” Spicer said yesterday, “and that’s what we received and that’s what we got. That’s why we can deem it a success.”

Spicer went even further today, asserting that no one should be allowed even to raise questions about the raid. “It’s absolutely a success, and I think anyone that would suggest it’s not a success does a disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” Spicer said.

And Donald Trump knows all about doing disservice to fallen heroes. Believe me!

In case you haven’t followed this story, in the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump approved a raid on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in Yemen, and pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The team encountered strong resistance, Owens was killed, an Osprey aircraft was disabled in a “hard landing” and had to be destroyed so it wouldn’t fall into AQAP’s hands, and according to the Yemeni government, 15 civilians, including at least one child, were killed.

Then, making things worse, the Pentagon released a training video it had seized as evidence of the high-level intelligence the raid produced. But it turned out that the footage was ten years old and had been distributed on the internet some time ago. According to some reports, the true target of the raid was AQAP leader Qasim al-Rimi, who is now gleefully mocking the United States.

Yemen has since withdrawn permission for the U.S. to conduct antiterrorist ground missions within their borders, although that might be at least partly in response to being put on Trump’s “banned” list.

How did this raid come about?

A look at the way this decision was made is not encouraging. While the plan had been circulating within the Pentagon for a few months (there’s some dispute about whether it actually reached the Obama White House), it was approved by President Trump at a dinner that included not only the relevant national security personnel but also his senior adviser Steve Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Waldman throws in a quote from NBC News that Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Trump that the raid would be a “game changer” and that the Obama Administration wouldn’t have been bold enough to try it.

Waldman continues,

This is where it gets troubling. Simply put, we’ve never seen a president who combined complete ignorance with rampaging overconfidence quite the way Trump does. Despite having no experience in military affairs or foreign policy, he claimed during the campaign that “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me,” and when asked whom he consulted on foreign policy, said, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lotta things.”

And what happened to his secret plan to defeat ISIS?

This is where things get really frightening: The person with the most pull over Trump is probably Bannon, who remains Trump’s most important adviser. But Bannon doesn’t seem likely to rein in Trump. Bannon harbors a visionary agenda for the United States government. He believes that “there is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,” a war between Islam and the Christian west. “Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is — and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it,” he said in a 2014 speech, “will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.” Those are not the words of a man who will be advising restraint in any given situation.

If that’s the mentality behind national security, the world is about to become much more violent.

And they’ve noticed this elsewhere, such as in Sweden — Anne Applebaum writes from Stockholm

A winter evening in Stockholm, lights glinting in the harbor, snow falling outside. “And what about us,” I am asked, “up here in the North? What happens to us?” My Swedish companions are journalists, analysts and civil servants, people who care about their country’s national security. Though neither elite nor wealthy, they do share a worldview. They think their country’s prosperity depends on the European Union and its open markets. They also think their safety depends on the United States’ commitment to Europe. And since President Trump took office, they suddenly find themselves staring into an unfathomable abyss. …

… Sweden’s economic and political model depends on Pax Americana, the set of American-written and American-backed rules that have governed transatlantic commerce and politics for 70 years — and they fear Trump will bring Pax Americana crashing down. Nor are they alone: Variations of this conversation are taking place in every European capital and many Asian capitals too. …
… None of my companions go as far as the extraordinary editorial in the German magazine Der Spiegel, which has just called on Germans to “stand up for what is important: democracy, freedom, the West and its alliances,” and which asks Europeans to start planning political and economic defenses “against America’s dangerous president.” But, yes, these Swedes would like to create new forms of European security. A Baltic-Nordic security pact should be on the table. European defense structures should get attention and investment.

The world is more dangerous than they imagined; the alliances and institutions they have long relied upon may be crumbling. “We are on our own here,” one of them writes to me the next day. Which pretty much sums up how the rest of America’s allies feel right now too.

As I said yesterday, the era in which the president of the United States was considered “the leader of the free world” is officially over.

Elsewhere, Trump has now threatened a Texas state senator. He offered to destroy the senator’s career for supporting Texas legislation Trump doesn’t like.

We can’t keep this up for four more years.

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The Free World Is Not Following Its So-Called Leader

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Trump Maladministration

Click to see entire cover.

This is the current cover of the German magazine Der Spiegel. DS is on a tear at the moment about the so-called president of the U.S. (SPOTUS)

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That’s difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

They’re organizing an intervention.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar. The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this). He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power. He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of “betrayal.” This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome. It is the way tyrants think.

So, in answer to the question Is Trump more like Nero? or Captain Queeg?, Der Spiegel chooses Nero.

The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for “America first” and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world’s most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him.

This is not a threat that will somehow resolve itself. The German economy has become the target of American trade policy and German democracy is ideologically antithetical to Trump’s vision. But even here, in the middle of Germany, right-wing extremists are trying to give him a helping hand. It is high time that we stand up for what is important: democracy, freedom, the West and its alliances.

Please. You’d be doing us all a favor.

While we’re here, let’s review today’s atrocities.

Melania is suing the Daily Mail for saying she once worked as an escort. But this is the OMG part:

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court against the tabloid’s owner, Mail Media, seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $150 million.

According to the suit, Trump planned to leverage her years as “one of the most photographed women in the world” to establish new “licensing, branding and endorsement” deals worth millions of dollars. She intended to “launch a broad-based commercial brand” selling “apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” the suit states.

It’s entirely possible this was the SPOTUS’s idea and not Melania’s, but — OMG, making money off the FLOTUS brand tacky, or what?

File this one under “sticks and stones will break my bones,” etc. —

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, said Monday that the administration will continue using the term “fake news” until the media understands that their “monumental desire” to attack the President is wrong.

“There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term,” Gorka, a former Breitbart editor who also holds a PhD in political science, told syndicated conservative radio host Michael Medved.
“That’s how unhealthy the situation is and until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, ‘fake news.’ I’m sorry, Michael. That’s the reality,” he added.

That’s the best they’ve got? They’re going to keep whining about “fake news”? What a bunch of weenies …

Yesterday at MacDill Air Force Base the SPOTUS said this:

“The challenges facing our nation nevertheless are very large. Very, very large,” Trump said. “We’re up against an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction. You’ve seen that. ISIS is on a campaign of genocide, committing atrocities across the word. Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our nation as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe.”

He continued: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Never mind that the perps in Boston, Orlando and San Bernardino had no operational ties to terrorist organizations. What about those underreported terrorist attacks? Trying to not make the SPOTUS look like a complete fool, the WH released a list today of the 79 terrorist attacks he was talking about. A quick glance tells us most of these incidents didn’t occur in Europe, or North America. But never mind — the New York Times released its own list showing it had covered every one.

Didn’t George W. Bush’s WH pull something like that, releasing an absurd list of terrorist attacks they claim to have stopped? And most of them were ridiculous? I seem to remember that.

Also today, Betsy DeVos was confirmed without a single Democratic vote.  Maybe the Dems are learning, anyway.

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Today’s Travel Ban News (Updated)

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Trump Maladministration

If you’re confused about what’s going on with the travel ban, here is the latest — As you no doubt heard, on Friday a federal judge issued a nationwide temporary restraining order blocking Trump’s executive action. The Justice Department appealed, but early Sunday an appeals court refused to reinstate the ban.

However, ABC News says, “the court still has to rule on the department’s request to place an emergency stay on the judge’s order to allow the government to resume enforcing the ban.” The Sunday ruling was a temporary thing. The appeals court, which sits in San Francisco, asked for additional briefs, which are supposed to be filed this afternoon.

CNN reports,

The judges who will hear the case — most likely conferring by telephone — are expected to issue a ruling as early as Tuesday. The three-judge panel includes Judge William C. Canby Jr, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, and Judge Richard R. Clifton, an appointee of President George W. Bush. It is likely that they will make their decisions based on the legal briefs they receive and not ask for a hearing.

Among the many persons and entities filing briefs with the court are two former secretaries of state, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright. Their brief was joined by two Obama Administration officials, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Leon E. Panetta, who served as secretary of defense and head of the C.I.A. The New York Times says of the brief,

With President Trump’s executive order, “we risk placing our military efforts at risk by sending an insulting message” to Iraqis working with American forces battling the Islamic State there, the legal filing to the court said. “The order will likely feed the recruitment narrative of ISIL and other extremists that portray the United States as at war with Islam,” it said, using another name for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

However the three-judge panel rules, the case will probably end up being decided by the Supreme Court, just about everybody says. This could be drawn out for weeks.

If the Trumpettes had any sense they’d let this one go; several polls say the public is against the travel ban. This is a war they would lose by winning.

However, I think we’re all clear by now that the Trumpettes have no sense. Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times that this administration is not exactly a well-oiled machine:

Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.

Trump is working with “a surprisingly small crew of no more than a half-dozen empowered aides with virtually no familiarity with the workings of the White House or federal government,” Thrush and Haberman say.

We also learn from the article that Trump likes the Oval Office:

He will linger on the opulence of the newly hung golden drapes, which he told a recent visitor were once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt but in fact were patterned for Bill Clinton. For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.

Really, it’s a weird but interesting article. Worth reading.

Update: Two states and about 100 tech companies also have filed briefs against the ban.

Update: The appeals court decided to hear oral arguments tomorrow evening.

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